This year’s FAA Challenge focuses on Smart Connected Aviation, providing undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to design, build, and test smart technology that has the ability to improve traveler’s transportation experiences and the efficiency of the national aviation ecosystem.
The FAA is developing a vision for an info-centric National Airspace System (NAS) for 2035. Full connectivity will come from infrastructure supporting NAS operations that enable all systems to share data. With all types of devices connected to the Internet (known as the Internet of Things [IoT]) and advances in wireless technology, nearly everything can be connected from nearly any location at any time. This ubiquitous system-to-system communication can be used to share location and intent information across vehicles, subsystems, and Air Traffic Management (ATM) stakeholders from airspace users to airports. Through improved filtering and presentation methods, this information and automation-based digital assistance will support human situational awareness. Autonomous systems can rely on this information, in concert with FAA-approved operating rules, to safely operate in the airspace.
As technology advances, information systems will operate with a level of information assurance well beyond today’s levels. Advances in cybersecurity will assure information integrity between end systems across diverse infrastructure. Network diversity will help ensure reliability, continuity of operations, and sustainment of the advertised level of service. Cloud technologies (e.g., software-defined networking and network function virtualization) will enable dynamic configuration of applications and information resources to meet real-time demands of users and service suppliers. Armed with large amounts of collected, shared, and stored operational data (e.g., on flight paths, position, velocity, weather, infrastructure status, and airspace), systems will be able to construct actionable real-time recommendations, and increasing flight efficiency.
Through the Smart Connected Aviation Student Competition, FAA seeks innovative ideas from the academic community that take advantage of a future info-centric NAS (including connected aircraft) that will benefit NAS users in the following four (4) categories:
- Category 1: Commercial Air Transportation
- Category 2: General Aviation
- Category 3: Emerging Operations
- Category 4: Traveling Public
Teams should address one (1) of the four (4) categories. Descriptions of the user categories and potential submission topics are provided below:
Theme 1: Commercial Air Transportation
Commercial air transportation is defined as “transportation by air of passengers, cargo or mail for remuneration or hire.” This also includes airport ground operations, take-off, in-flight and landing. Technologies and systems that minimize ground wait times and reduce flight times through avoidance of weather and coordination with other connected aircraft are of interest.
Theme 2: General Aviation
General Aviation (GA)” is defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as “all civil aviation operations other than scheduled air services and non-scheduled air transport operations for remuneration or hire”. It includes recreational flying, pilot training, business aviation, agriculture applications, emergency medical services, law enforcement and firefighting, aerial photography and survey work, and sightseeing and air tours. GA typically use a separate general aviation terminal at an airport and are looking for many of the same benefits as the commercial/business traveler, but they would have specialized needs arising out of the classification of service listed above. Many are also pilots and would have interest in apps, technologies and systems that would make cockpit and air operations safer and more efficient.
Theme 3: Emerging Operations
Emerging aviation systems and users would include, but are not limited to, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) and Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) systems, Personal Air Vehicles (PAVs), as well as commercial space. Autonomous UAS will soon be ubiquitous and will have major on-going operations in package delivery, agriculture, surveying, law enforcement, security, etc. Approaches for safe integration of these systems into the NAS are of interest. Over 100 companies are currently developing electric air taxis to transport small numbers of passengers over short distances, primarily in urban areas. These systems are expected to evolve into integrated regional air mobility systems. Eventually most or all operations are expected to be autonomous. These systems would primarily operate out of new “vertiports” as well as existing airports. Smart connected aircraft technologies are essential for these systems to operate safely and efficiently. Companies are also developing PAVs that will enable individuals to travel almost anywhere from point-to-point rapidly. Technologies and systems to enable these operations, including “detect and avoid” systems, are also of interest. One of FAA’s major roles is to “efficiently integrate Commercial Space operations into the NAS to minimize impact on air travel and maximize safety.” Technologies and concepts to enable these systems to safely operate in the NAS are of interest.
Theme 4: Traveling Public
Commercial and business travelers travel nationally and internationally on scheduled commercial flights on large and regional aircraft that carry 20 to 500 passengers. In the future, they will also be traveling regionally on AAM and eVTOL systems. They are interested in getting from airport departure to airport arrival in a safe, convenient, comfortable, low-cost, and entertaining manner. This begins at airport departure and parking, through check-in, baggage pick-up, passing security, transport to/from the gate, and boarding/deplaning of the aircraft. Smart airport technologies that take advantage of IoT would be of interest. An additional area of interest may include inflight cabin activities e.g., systems that provide in-flight information and entertainment.
Please Note: Submissions for all categories must incorporate solutions that ensure that diverse passenger populations (e.g., people with disabilities, seniors, children, international visitors) are able to benefit from the emerging technology.
Submissions can include apps, technologies, business plans, subsystem designs, system designs, etc. Submissions should include a five (5) page paper with sufficient detail, diagrams, and references to provide a thorough explanation of how the concept would work and provide tangible benefits (described in the paper) to one of the four categories (1) Commercial Air Transportation, (2) General Aviation, (3) Emerging Operations or (4) Traveling Public. All submissions are due by January 20, 2022. A finalist will be selected in each of the categories and will present to a panel of judges at a technical symposium in Atlantic City, New Jersey in late June of 2022.
Please carefully review the FAA Challenge website https://faachallenge.nianet.org for updated competition details. Details for the FAA Challenge are subject to change. Teams who submit an Expression of Interest by the deadline will be notified of any and all changes, which will also be made available on the FAA Challenge FAQs website under a “Changes” section heading.